Inspiring Artists Stories
Today we'd like to introduce you to Michael Burrell
Home: New York City, NY Current Location: Dallas, TX
Michael, appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us. Before we get into it, can you tell us a little about yourself?
I grew up in Anaheim Hills and went to Orange Lutheran High School. My senior year I was a Jimmy Awards finalist. I then went to Texas State University, where I got my BFA in Musical Theatre. Post-college, I moved to Manhattan and started working professionally around the world.
Can you tell us about what you're currently working on ?
Sadly, almost all theaters remain closed right now so I’m living the unemployed life. But I'm always staying on top of learning, growing, and finding ways to be creative. Right before the pandemic hit, I finished the international tour of An American in Paris in Paris, after touring mainland China and Taiwan.
Overall, has your journey been a smooth road? If not, what are some of the struggles you've experienced along the way and how have you overcome them?
I think if you’ve chosen this profession, you’ve accepted, to some degree, that it’s not going to be a smooth road. I try to remind myself of why I do this and why I can’t do anything else. Also, so much is out of my control. I try to focus on what I can control, and work harder at those things. And believe me, I fail at this optimism a lot. But that’s part of the bumpy road. Always finding new ways to maneuver through the obstacles.
Are there any lessons that you have learned along the way? Is there anything you know now that you'd want to tell your younger self?
I’ve learned a lot about who I want to be not only in this industry, but in this world. The beauty of the industry I’ve chosen and the city I’m living in, is, I encounter people from all walks of life. Everyone has a different story and something unique to bring to the table. It’s important to listen and learn from everyone. You can learn something from anyone you encounter. Now it may not be groundbreaking, and it may actually teach you how not to be, but you are still learning. Be open and always listening. That’s what I would tell my younger self.
Has there been any advice you've been given that has stuck with you?
“Eat the f******g cheesecake.” The head of my program at Texas State, Kaitlin Hopkins, used to say this. There are going to be times when you go into auditions and just feel like you’ve absolutely blown it, or you crushed it but still didn’t get the part- most likely due to something outside of your control entirely! It’s so easy to sit in that place of anger and self-doubt. It’s okay to sit in that for the moment. Put on a trashy movie, have a good cry, eat some f******g cheesecake and then move on. It really isn’t that serious. You can’t let this industry control your life - you are more than your career. The minute you let this career have that control over you, you lose all joy and forget why you’re even doing this.
With the amount of media available at our fingertips, where do you find inspiration?
I feel like I get inspired fairly easily. I love theater, film, TV, books, and art. If its thought-provoking in any way, it probably inspires me. It gets me to think about something in a way I hadn’t before. Even non-arts related things. Watch anyone who is great at what they do. It's inspiring! What makes them so good at what they do?
With experience performing literally across the globe, what do you consider your proudest moment?
I’d say the most recent I had was when my dad came out to Paris to see my show. He flew out for 48 hours and saw the show 3 times. That was a very special show for me, so to have him there, in Paris, and to get to bring him onto that iconic stage after the show, that was one for the books.
With the theater industry seemingly at a standstill, what role do you think the arts continue to play in society?
To inspire. To provoke conversation. To provide escapism. To confront your inner biases. To make you uncomfortable. To bring you joy. To make you cry. To make you laugh. I think the list of roles that the arts and artists have in society is endless. There isn’t just one role and I don’t think there should be. Art is meant to convey whatever it is those artists want to convey, without confines.
Given our current affairs, what are your hopes for the future of the arts?
I hope we take all that we are learning at this moment in history and act on it. We can’t expect art to be a beacon of light or hope in the world if we can’t look deep into where we fall short as an industry. We have to be willing to be affected by the messages of the art we love to create. We aren’t immune to it. I also hope more and more people continue to see the value of the arts. You couldn’t go a day without art of some sort. Support it and fund it!
What role do you think the arts have played in unifying people?
I think of a group cohesively working toward a shared goal. That’s what the arts are to me. It’s a group working together to move a story forward. And the arts create unity in people watching by causing a shared reaction. A shared feeling. Being able to come from those different walks of life and find a shared experience. I think in a world so divided, it’s so important to have the arts to create unity, even if just for a two and a half hour show.
Image Credit: Anthony Chatmon Photography
Melissa Taylor Photography
Goat Factory Media Entertainment
Suggest a story: The Rose Center Theater's Inspiring Artists Series is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.